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New Corsa’s turbocharged 1.4-litre engine majors on torque and frugality, but might not appeal to keener drivers who like vivacious petrol units
Steve Cropley Autocar
16 October 2014

What is it?

It’s all very well for Vauxhall to come out with cheap, youthful and quirky three-cylinder versions of its much-improved new Vauxhall Corsa, but there also needs to be one for the traditionalist who wants more open-roads oomph that the average low-powered city-car versions, and is prepared to pay for it.

The 99bhp, four cylinder, 1.4-litre turbo version is just that car. We drove it in slightly sporty SRi guise, which is well-equipped inside (nearly all Corsas come with plenty of kit, mind). It also sports black 16-inch alloy wheels, with black pillars and body-colour doorhandles.

However, it retains the smoother-riding, slightly quieter Comfort chassis settings that are standard across most of the range. Opt for 17-inch wheels, though, and you'll get a Corsa with a firmer Sport chassis.

What's it like?

Vauxhall's 1.4 turbo engine is closely related to previous editions but it has been repurposed in the latest Corsa to put deliver more mid-range torque, lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel consumption.

You can see the evidence in the engine’s published specification: the generous maximum torque of 147lb ft is delivered over a flat peak between 1850 and 3500rpm but its peak power amounts to just 99bhp, fully 30 per cent less than more performance-oriented turbocharged rivals of the same capacity.

The engine starts and idles quietly, and is very smooth at low revs, but it pulls robustly as soon as the driver engages the clutch from standstill – and it delivers very docile low-end performance. Thrust is strong in the 2000rpm to 3500rpm range, but it starts to tail off in the 4000s and by 4700rpm you’re better off changing up, much like a diesel.

The benefit is claimed combined fuel consumption of 55.4mpg, and official CO2 emissions of 119g/km, low enough to save an owner from having to shell out on road tax in the first year, and limiting it to £30 in the second.

In fact, this may well be the perfect engine choice for someone who likes diesel characteristics but doesn’t want a diesel car. Given the current future over diesel emissions, Vauxhall may well have identified a trend that will grow. But woe betide the driver, used to top-endy petrol engines, who expects strong upper-range passing performance: it’s not there.

Vauxhall prides itself on building cars for the way people really drive and this may well be the perfect example. Once you’ve realised the 1.4T is a petrol engine with diesel characteristics the Corsa is pleasant, long-legged and relaxed. The throttle response is fairly soft, but the whole unit works well with the Comfort chassis.

The new interior gives the whole car a lift, as do its surprising array of standard features like a heated front screen, tyre pressure monitoring and hill-start assist.

Drive a Comfort-equipped car hard and you’ll soon see a need for the Sport chassis that comes with Corsas on 17-inch wheels – it makes the steering feel much crisper and more responsive, and the ride tauter, though both are delivered at the cost of a little more noise and bump-thump.

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Should I buy one?

Drive the car first. It turns more decisively towards frugality and low-to-mid range torque than any petrol engine we’ve driven in a while. You’d need to know you were happy with a small petrol four that runs out of puff this side of 5000rpm. Yet the SRi Ecoflex 1.4T will undoubtedly suit many buyers.

It sets out to provide the silent majority of drivers who have made 'Corsa' Europe’s second-biggest nameplate with an economical, easy-driving option, and it succeeds.

Vauxhall Corsa SRi 1.4i Turbo Ecoflex 5dr

Price £13,195; 0-62mph 11.0sec; Top speed 115mph; Economy 53.3mpg; CO2 123g/km; Kerb weight 1180kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1364cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 99bhp between 3500-6000rpm; Torque 147lb ft between 1850-3500rpm; Gearbox six-speed manual

Add a comment…
Marv 20 October 2014

Misleading badging

I think the TURBO badge is totally misleading, especially being matched to the SRi spec. Since the torque characteristics point to it being more of an eco-special I personally think a 'EcoFlex T' badge or something similar would be more appropriate. I also think Vauxhall's current use of the TURBO badge is very 80's in it's application. Maybe they think it's retro....... much in the same vein as the Corsa 'restyle'.
Peter Cavellini 19 October 2014

A question.

Are all small cars going through an ugly phase?
thinkBIGGER 18 October 2014

This engine is a dud

When I first read the stats for this new engine, I thought it was a misprint. The engine in my own car was originally released in 2010 and from what I can see here, Vauxhall/Opel have made zero progress since then.

The 1.4 turbo in my Mito has more power AND more torque: 135 bhp and 152 lb ft (peak torque is also produced 100rpm lower as well).

There isn't even a noticeable benefit in efficiency for the drop in power: 53.3 mpg vs 50.2 mpg. A hike of 3 mpg in 4 years...

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